Thursday, October 14, 2010

Invidious rhetoric directed at fellow hominoids

While at an academic tax conference last weekend, I experienced the frisson (a word I've never actually used before, either in speech or writing) of coming across a lively-sounding quote from my own past work that I had completely forgotten writing.

The paper we were discussing at the conference concerned overlaps between programs designed by different Congressional committees, and it cited a paper of mine from some years back that discusses the effective marginal tax rates that can apply to poor individuals from federal and state income and other taxes plus income-based phase-outs of TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, the EITC, rental vouchers, etc. In many ranges, as I showed, the effective marginal tax rate for a given rise in income may plausibly exceed 100% for many people. I suggested that this couldn't be a good design feature, and that it presumably reflected lack of conscious coordination of the programs (among other factors).

But the line that I still don't recall writing (though it sounds like me), and that the paper we were discussing quoted, goes something like: This MTR structure looks like it was designed by a drunk, or perhaps a chimpanzee.

But I know how to do the decent thing when I'm in the wrong. So, even though there were none in the room, I made sure at the conference last weekend to apologize to the chimpanzees.

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